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The Best Beach Towns In California
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The Best Beach Towns In California

From Northern and Central to Southern, these are the best beach towns in California.

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5 min read

January 26, 2022

California beach towns will make you swoon your way to the moon. From world-class seafood restaurants to incredible surf spots, the impeccable charm, stunning scenery, and laid-back vibes of the Golden State's coastline will leave you falling head over heels. So, pack your shades, sunscreen, and sustainable swimsuit—it's time to hit the road and head to one of the beach cities in California

These are the Best Beach Towns in Southern California

Laguna Beach has long been a coveted destination, attracting droves with its spectacular environs, temperate weather, and renowned art galleries.

Laguna Beach

Known for its mild weather, plethora of art galleries, and waterfront perch, Laguna Beach is much more than a Hollywood film location. This California beach town is one of the most famous in the entire state for good reason. Head to the gorgeous beaches and picture-perfect coves, check out the works of local artists, purchase local swimwear, and grab a bite to eat. You’ll feel like a reality TV star in no time at this beach town in California.

San Diego Beach Towns

Coronado 

Home to miles of pristine beaches, plenty of unique shops, and the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, this island has earned itself a reputation as one of the best beach towns in California. Whether your ideal vacation involves taking a ferry to San Diego to check out the Gaslamp District, trying out your skills with various water sports, or lounging on the sand for endless hours, Coronado has it all.

Carlsbad is your gateway to Southern California's most charming and unforgettable escapes, perfect for a family getaway.

Carlsbad 

Carlsbad is an affluent city in San Diego offering year-round perfect weather, miles of gorgeous beaches, and endless summer fun. Besides awesome amenities for every type of activity, this California beach town is also a major foodie destination. You will find plenty of things to do in Carlsbad such as spending your days admiring its beautiful coasts, getting active outdoors, and living life like you’re on a never-ending vacation.

Coastal Towns Near Los Angeles 

Santa Monica

Santa Monica will give you the good vibes. From the famed, ride-filled pier to the cement pathway that welcomes you to skate over to Venice Beach, Santa Monica is without a doubt one of the best California coastal towns. Spend the day soaking up the SoCal sun, and take a bike ride around town before you head home. Santa Monica is definitely one of the best Southern California beach towns, so make sure to stop by when you're in L.A.

Famous for its pristine swaths of sand, sun-soaked landscape, and luxurious beachfront homes, Malibu makes for an idyllic and tranquil escape.

Malibu

The stunning town of Malibu has a more remote location than other beachside cities in the Greater Los Angeles area, so you can enjoy yourself without having to deal with nearly as many tourists. One of the best beach towns in California for a reason, this vacation destination doesn't disappoint whether you have rock climbing, surfing, eating farm-to-table cuisine, or simply relaxing on your to-do list.

Seaside Cities Near Santa Barbara

San Luis Obispo

Tucked along the coast, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this idyllic California beach town offers something for everyone. With temperate weather, a mixture of urban and natural staples, and enough activities to keep college students busy year-round, San Luis Obispo is the ideal Central Coast getaway

Best Northern California Coastal Towns

Santa Cruz is not only a surfer's haven, but also a relaxing retreat for travelers craving beachside fun and outdoor adventure.

Santa Cruz

The iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, stunning state parks, and incredible sunsets draw thousands of annual visitors to one of the best California coastal towns across the bay from Monterey. Compared to the surrounding towns, Santa Cruz has a vibrant yet low-key vibe that makes it one of the best beach cities in California for twenty-somethings. Try the local ice cream, take a bite out of delicious burgers, and walk along the river to see for yourself why this town is so special.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

After spending a day walking along the cobblestone streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea, it's hard not to fall in love with one of the best beach towns in California. Though the magical town is only a short drive away from the Bay Area, its cobalt waters, quaint boutiques, and endless eateries will make you want to stay for more than one day. Watch the sun go down while sitting on the sandy shores, marvel at the beauty surrounding you, and take home a piece of artwork to commemorate the trip.

McWay Falls is an internationally recognized attraction in the Big Sur region, where visitors can witness rushing water cascade down granite cliffs.

Big Sur

Famous for its incredibly scenic location among the redwoods, Big Sur is one of the best regions in California to live. Whether you pop in during a trip to Carmel or stay the entire weekend in Big Sur, it's bound to become one of your new favorite places. Cruise down Highway 1 and savor the unparalleled views as you make your way to the rugged stretch of coast. Visit the local eateries and go on a hike in Big Sur before your trip is over. If you’re enjoying your staycation too much to let go, book a room at one of the best Big Sur cabins or rough it in the wilderness.

Mendocino

If you're seeking the quintessential Northern California beach town, look no further than Mendocino. Boasting a rugged appeal, this laid-back region is the perfect place to go glamping, camping, and hiking—though it does have plenty of upscale options (including Michelin-starred restaurants, eco-resorts, and nearby hot springs) for those desiring a more elegant escape.

Tucked away in the northernmost part of the state, Arcata is where travelers head to reconnect with nature and escape the hustle and bustle.

Arcata

While it is known for being home to Humboldt State University, Arcata is also one of the most affordable beach towns in California. With fairly close proximity to the state’s northern border, this city experiences a cooler climate and much more rain than other areas of California. Venture through the redwoods at the local parks, grab a scoop or two of the local, organic, handcrafted ice cream, and head out on the dirt roads that wind past farmlands before meandering toward the beach. 

Beach Towns Near San Francisco

Sausalito

Sausalito, one of the best small beach towns in California, draws plenty of tourists during the summer months, but largely remains under the radar for the rest of the year (which is exactly why we like it). Whether you're looking to get away from the city or scouring for the best seafood restaurants in San Francisco, this small California beach town serves up whatever you desire with a magnificent view. Check out floating homes and houseboats, go for a hike, and enjoy the comforts of Sausalito's small-town charm; You just might want to stay forever.

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